Government plans to establish a road accident fund to help address the challenges road traffic victims face e.g. disability and loss of employment. According to the Ministry of Transport the current third party motor vehicle insurance scheme does not effectively address the post-crash needs. Many motorists see it as "a form of tax that they would avoid rather than a protection for their lives". Government is keen on having a scheme that would facilitate compensation to victims and meet their financial and medical requirements.
The Government has not yet explained the key aspects of this proposal: how will it be implemented or enforced? Is it going to be a voluntary fund people pay into or mandatory? There are no hard proposals on the table. In theory this can only be done in one of four ways:
Option 1: A pure GRZ scheme funded from the existing health or transport budget
Option 2: A motorist fund which every motorist contributes to (including businesses)
Option 3: A targeted fund at the transportation industry only (e.g buses, haulage industry)
Option 4: A combination of the above options
Anything apart from Option 1 would amount to an additional tax on people on top of other taxes being levied on motorists e.g. road tax, carbon tax. An additional question also raises issues of fairness. Some are already insured, so why should they fork out more to others? Indeed, why have a car insurance scheme at all?
The idea is fraught with difficulties. The question is therefore whether there are other alternatives that Government should be looking at. A right approach would perhaps focus two things.
First, preventing road accidents. Government should come up with adequate policies that solve the causes of the current carnage on our roads, rather than focusing on the symptoms. Surprisingly, there’s a lot that can be done in this area. We can start by stopping the largest killer – drunk driving. Most accidents involve intoxicated drivers. We can also work hard to promote defensive safety culture through encouraging behaviour change. Many countries run campaigns and training courses to make drivers aware of the dangers and consequences of careless driving. We can improve road designs to cater for children and the vulnerable. There’s also need for consideration of dual carriage on many of our road and improve lighting!
Secondly, internalise the costs. For example the legal framework should be reformed that would allow people to efficiently and effective sue whoever is responsible for accidents. For example, if the accident is caused by poor road maintenance - the people should be able to sue whoever is responsible for that e.g local council. In the same way one sues their employer for poor environment at work. This is very common in many countries and it is good way to internalise accountability.
In light of the above it would seem prudent for more options to be explored before we venture in the dark!